Former Norwich City defender Michael Nelson’s bitter-sweet League Cup final win over Celtic

Former Norwich City defender Michael Nelson has spoken of the tragedy that overshadowed his new club's day of cup final glory.

Centre-half Nelson – whose winning goal for the Canaries at Charlton clinched promotion from League One two years ago – starred in the Kilmarnock side that beat Celtic 1-0 to lift the Scottish Communities League Cup at Hampden Park on Sunday.

It was a stunning success that ended Celtic's unbeaten run of 26 domestic games, but a huge shadow was cast over the Killie celebrations when midfielder Liam Kelly's father, Jack, died after suffering a heart attack at the end of the game.

Mr Kelly was receiving emergency treatment from paramedics next to the Kilmarnock dug-out while the players were still on the pitch with the trophy.

'The final whistle went and we were doing our stuff on the pitch and the players were oblivious to what was going on,' said Nelson.

'The gaffer, Kenny Shiels, tried to keep us away and he got us off the pitch and told us. As we were going down the tunnel the news filtered through and it registered what was happening.

'The changing room was very quiet after that and there was a very sombre atmosphere. Everyone was praying that Liam's dad would be all right.

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'We just hoped and prayed that, in a similar way to Fabrice Muamba at Tottenham, they would get him to hospital in time and be able to help him but sadly it wasn't the case.'

The 22-year-old Kelly rushed to the nearby hospital where his father was taken, but he died shortly afterwards.

The Kilmarnock players learned of Mr Kelly's death as they toured the Ayrshire town on an open-top bus on Sunday evening before attending a winners' reception.

Before that drama unfolded, a crowd of nearly 50,000 at Hampden had seen Belgian forward Dieter van Tornhout mark his 27th birthday by heading Kilmarnock's 84th-minute winner from a cross by Lee Johnson.

There was still time for Nelson to be involved in the game's most controversial moment as Celtic's Anthony Stokes went down under his challenge in injury time. Referee Willie Collum waved away penalty appeals and instead booked Stokes for simulation.

Said Nelson: 'Stokes cut in so I just tried to get my body in a position across him, so that if he shot I could get a block in.

'There may have been a slight contact but whether it was enough to make him go down is another matter. I spoke to Stokesy after the game and he was adamant it was a stonewall penalty, but after watching it on the replays he said the more he watched it the more he thought maybe it wasn't.

'It didn't matter because the referee didn't give it.'

Nelson, making only his 10th appearance for Kilmarnock after signing from Scunthorpe in January, said they deserved their victory.

'Our goalkeeper, Cammy Bell, was man of the match but Fraser Forster had a big game in goal, too. We created some great chances and the goal came from a good move,' he said.

Nelson and Celtic's Forster, a fellow Geordie, shared in City's League One title success in 2010.

'It's hard to compare because what happened at Norwich was more of a progression over the course of the season whereas here I only played in the semi-final and final of this competition,' said Nelson.

'Kilmarnock won the Scottish Cup in 1997 when they beat Falkirk, but because of the opposition I think this one will be even more remembered.

'Celtic were 26 games unbeaten and flying high.'

Forster is just one of a clutch of old Norwich team-mates Nelson has come across in the SPL.

'I played against George Francomb when we played Hibs three or four weeks ago and the week before last, Owain Tudur Jones was playing against us for Inverness,' said Nelson. 'It was good to catch up with them. Stephen Hughes is also up here, playing for Aberdeen, but living in Glasgow so I'm hoping the two of us can meet up with Fraser for a coffee at some point.'

Nelson, who will be 32 on Friday, also revealed how City boss Paul Lambert had helped him secure his move to Kilmarnock.

'The manager at Scunthorpe told me I wasn't in his plans and if I could find another club I could leave. I had interest from one or two English clubs and clubs in the SPL,' he said.

'I came down for the Norwich-QPR game and I had a chat with Paul Lambert and he said if there was anything he could do to let him know.

'I told him Kenny Shiels wanted a reference for me and about 10 or 15 minutes later I had a phone call from Paul Lambert saying he had spoken to Kenny, which was brilliant for me.

'Not every manager would do that for you and with what he has achieved in the last two years the recommendation doesn't come much higher than that.'

Nelson's efforts for City, where he scored five times in 45 games over an 18-month period, have not been forgotten by his former team-mates, with Grant Holt and Adam Drury both telephoning on the morning of the League Cup final to wish him luck, and he in turn is delighted to see their progress in the Premier League.

'I'm not surprised they are holding their own. I always thought they had enough to stay up but they've probably done even better than I expected,' he said.

'I was at the game at Sunderland and that must have been one of the poorer performances, but I've seen them several times this season and they played much better than that.'

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